Landside Security by Design: A Case Study

Many passenger terminals operating today were designed before the current threat environment had evolved. For decades terminal road systems and car parks have been constructed immediately adjacent to the front of the terminal providing passenger convenience but lacking the basic security components and flexibility to address today’s threats and regulatory requirements. Vince Scanlon details Adelaide Airport’s solution, which provides both.

Adelaide Airport Limited (AAL) developed a traditional approach when it constructed its new terminal and road system, which was opened in late 2005. The original design commenced in the late 1990s following the privatisation of the airport. The project was deferred in 2001 due to two significant aviation impacts, firstly the dramatic events of 9/11 and two days later the collapse of Ansett Airlines (Australia’s second largest domestic carrier at the time), which provided about 40% of the traffic to the airport.

Design was subsequently recommenced in late 2002, with the previous concept adopted, and construction works commenced in 2003.

The terminal was based on a linear model due to site constraints of the existing road system and the runway. This resulted in a two-level elevated road system being most convenient, running along the face of the terminal façade at both levels. The existing open area ground level short-term car park comprising 870 spaces immediately adjacent to the road system was reused due to budget constraints. Plans for a multi-level car park, which was to have been constructed immediately against the road system was deferred. In hindsight, this decision was a blessing, as construction in this location would have repeated the errors of the past and fixed the road system in a corridor which would have been almost impossible to move.

Upon opening the new terminal in October 2005, it serviced 5.4 million passengers. Today, nearly 10 years after opening, those figures have risen to almost 8 million passengers. International passenger growth increased by 15% in 2012/13, 25% in 2013/14 and is forecast to grow by a similar amount in 2014/15, making it Australia’s fastest growing international airport.
The terminal design and ambience has also played its part in Adelaide Airport winning Australian Airport of the Year in 2006, 2009 and 2011.

This success and exceptional growth also came with its share of problems. By 2009, reforecasting identified the potential for a long-term congestion issue with the elevated road system and the inherent design constraints of the associated ramps. This issue, combined with the need to construct a new multi-level car park and the changing security thinking following various ‘front of house’ vehicle incidents (such as Glasgow and Madrid) led to the need for some long-term creative thinking.

The first challenge for the design team was to clearly understand and define what ‘front of house’ meant.

The ‘front of house’ area of an airport is defined not so much by physical characteristics or operational factors, but by risk factors. The definition of the ‘front of house’ zone requiring mitigation measures is clearer if based on a description of security risk rather than if focused on building layout or operational factors alone. For the project purpose, the following definition was adopted:

Those non-screened, publicly accessible areas of airport terminals (outside the sterile areas) and their surrounds where people routinely gather (mass gatherings) and where they are susceptible to terrorist attack. (Office of Transport Security, Aviation Security Risk Context Statement, December 2010 ) .